Could the Rays Acquire Dexter Fowler?

The Rays were not a good offensive team by any measure in 2012. And with B.J. Upton set to depart as a free agent, the Rays’ offense is set to be only worse this coming season. With that in mind, the Rays are going to have to heavily consider trading their pitching depth for quality bats to get their offense up to par. Could a possible trade target to start making that happen be the Colorado Rockies’ Dexter Fowler?

Fowler, who will turn 27 in March, is not so young anymore, but he has three years of team control remaining as an arbitration-eligible player before hitting free agency and has a solid offensive pedigree including a great 2012 season. This past year, Fowler posted a .300/.389/.474 line (117 OPS+) with 18 doubles, 11 triples, 13 homers, 53 RBI, 12 of 17 stolen bases, and 128 strikeouts versus 68 walks in 143 games and 530 plate appearances. For his career, Fowler has a .271/.364/.427 line, an even 100 OPS+, exactly the league average for Coors Field. A major problem is that league average for Coors, renowned for being an extreme hitter’s ballpark is far from league average for Tropicana Field, which heavily favors pitchers. Per Baseball-Reference’s Neutralized Batting tool, Fowler would have just a .252/.341/.399 if you put him in Tropicana Field for his whole career. Even so, that’s good for a .740 OPS that is no far off from Upton’s .758 mark for his career. But the stats aren’t everything, especially as we take them with a grain of salt coming out of Coors.

Fowler features solid bat speed with decent power, good plate discipline, and great speed would be put to better use on a more aggressive basestealing team like the Rays. He has the ability to be a better hitter than Upton in terms of batting average and OBP, but his power doesn’t come close. Fowler would probably be around a 10-homer threat in Tropicana Field, nothing more. The Rays would love to replace Upton with a power hitter, but as long as they think Fowler can be a productive player otherwise, that would not preclude them from acquiring him. But another issue with Fowler is his defense. Fowler has been considered a significantly below-average defender by both UZR and FRAA. UZR thinks he’s among the worst in baseball at a ridiculous -39.1 mark the past five years (39.1 runs below average), while FRAA considers him simply bad at -5.6. Upton was another player whose defense was considered at times to be questionable, but he has an 18.1 career UZR and a 0.1 career FRAA. The Rays really were stung by their defense this season, and although their infielders (particularly the shortstops) were certainly the primarily culprits, they need every defensive advantage they can get.

In terms of salary, Fowler made 2.35 million dollars this season and expects to see raises the next three years in arbitration. His salary still should not be a real issue for the Rays if they’re interested in trading for him.

Fowler is a player who the Rays could look into, but he’s far from the ideal type of player that they’re looking for and it’s doubtful that they’ll value him too highly. The Rockies will undoubtedly be looking for a starting pitcher from the Rays in return as their starters managed just a 5.81 ERA in 2012, their worst mark since 1999. The Rays are willing to deal several of their pitchers right now in the right deal: James Shields, Wade Davis, Jeremy Hellickson, and Alex Cobb. Shields certainly has more value than Fowler and that appears to be the case with Hellickson and maybe even Davis. The most realistic trade scenario might be a straight-up Cobb-Fowler swap or maybe a trade of Davis for Fowler and a prospect or maybe even one of the Rockies’ pitchers, like say Alex White, who was a great prospect not that long ago but was horrific by any measure this season in the big leagues. Fowler will not be one of the Rays’ top targets this offseason but deserves a look as a complementary piece and the Rays could pull the trigger if the price is right.

Topics: Colorado Rockies, Dexter Fowler, Tampa Bay Rays

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  • SMCBaylorBear

    You’re out of your mind if you think the Rockies are going to swap Fowler for Cobb. They already have 8 pitchers like Cobb: Christian Friedrich, Alex White, Guillermo Moscoso, Drew Pomeranz, Tyler Chatwood, Jeff Francis, Juan Nicasio, Jonathan Sanchez. Come on man, do your homework. Rockies are looking for front line pitching, not another youngster.

    • Robbie_Knopf

      The difference: Cobb had a 3.67 FIP and 3.54 xFIP this season. All the Rockies’ pitchers flamed out. They definitely want a frontline starter, but they’re not going to get that for Fowler except for as part of a bigger deal. They MIGHT settle for Cobb because has the combination of command and control that the Rockies don’t have right now. Every Rockies starter in 2012 had a HR/9 over 1.0 this season and Cobb has the ability to be better than that.

      • SMCBaylorBear

        The Rockies do have the command and control that Cobb has. It’s within Jeff Francis, who should be slotted into the number 5 spot in the rotation next year if the Rockies resign him. I also think SIERA is a better metric to use with this. I don’t think FIP and xFIP make adjustments for parks. I’m not necessarily knocking Cobb, but I just think that Fowler is much more valuable in Coors Field. Fowler’s WAR is higher and longer as well. I think the Rays win that trade easily if they simply swap. I think Fowler won’t be swapped, but he could be packaged.

        • Robbie_Knopf

          Cobb had a 3.51 SIERA (and an 86 xFIP-), so same point and Fowler had close to the same WAR according to Fangraphs (2.9 for Fowler, 2.2 for Cobb) even though Cobb started the year in the minor leagues. You can’t overlook Fowler’s defensive issues. The Rockies probably don’t do that trade because it looks bad to trade an established player coming off a great year straight up for a rookie who posted a 4.00 ERA in a pitchers’ ballpark, but it does seem fair in theory in my opinion.

          • SMCBaylorBear

            I understand Cobb had a good year statistically. But it was one year and statistics aren’t everything. You don’t trade a good starting center fielder for a guy that doesn’t really project more than a number three. Jeff Francis offers similar results as Cobb and can be signed to a team-friendly contract. No reason to settle trading your starting center fielder for a number five starter. Now, I would like to see Price for Fowler, Rutledge/Story and White/Moscoso/Friedrich. Y’all have plenty of arms and if you like Cobb as much as if looks, then he can help fill Price’s void. That helps fill your voids at SS and CF for the foreseeable future while it helps fill the Rockies void at SP for the foreseeable future. What do you think?

          • Robbie_Knopf

            The Rays aren’t about to trade Price except for in a deal where the other team completely blows them away, and this is not that. Shields for that type of package could be an option, but I’m still not sure that’s enough. You’re still overstating Fowler’s value, Rutledge is not that good (lack of plate discipline), Story is far from big league ready, and White/Moscoso/Friedrich are at their lowest possible value right now.

          • SMCBaylorBear

            Well they’re going to trade him here sometime within the next year or so. Fowler’s value is higher than its ever been for him. Price’s value is higher than it ever is going to be. Rutledge is a rookie. I think they should trade him Price if they don’t plan on keeping him for awhile.

          • Robbie_Knopf

            Fowler’s trade value is not as high of you think because there’s always an asterisk on any breakout year at Coors and because of his defense. As I said in the article, the Rays would view Fowler as any a complementary piece. And the Rays are hoping that they can get a Mark Teixeira-like package for Price or at least a potential superstar player like a Jurickson Profar from the Rangers as part of the deal. None of these pieces blow the Rays away enough to trade him. A Shields trade looks inevitable and maybe a Price one is as well, but this is not package that makes that happen.

          • SMCBaylorBear

            I don’t necessarily think he has tons of value, but he’s no slouch. And he has his highest value in his career after this past season. I don’t buy into Coors Field being that big a factor. You still play the exact same game against the exact same pitchers. There’s some inflation obviously, but maybe that’s why his defense isn’t viewed as great. He covers a large amount of ground in Coors Field. Best of luck to you. I’m not as excited about Shields, but at this point I’d take almost any established pitcher.

          • Robbie_Knopf

            We’re not only talking Coors to average- we’re talking from Coors to one of the worst hitters’ ballparks in the game. The Rays will be hard-pressed to get the type of dream offer they desire, but they will get more than that package above.

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